In The Hole

Larissa felt like an object floating on the surface of the ocean. It was a very calm ocean, with only the briefest storms she could distinctly recall being tossed about by waves a few times, but that was as far as it went. Once she thought she was being pulled under by a powerful current, and panic had risen inside of her as an invisible hand began to squeeze her throat. Then it had vanished as soon as it had come, and she had been able to breathe easily once again.

There she hung, between reality and a hazy dreamlike state that was strangely tangible. At times, she could hear faint human voices, but her skin was numb to the sense of touch.

And then her watery paradise vanished, and she was falling, falling down a bottomless well of blackness that greedily swallowed her like a whale effortlessly clamping its massive jaws shut on a smaller fish.

She screamed and tried to grab on to something to slow her flight. The only problem was that there was nothing to hold. Twisting her body around, her eyes searched frantically for something, anything, anyone who would answer her pleas.

There was nothing. There was no one else about.

And then he suddenly appeared.

The enigmatic smile, the devious glitter in his eyes. Yes, Raleigh.

Raleigh would save her.

No, he wouldn't.

She saw the expression on his face and knew that Raleigh Wolfram wouldn't lift a finger to help. He floated several feet above her, falling along with her, it seemed, but yet without the same panic or fright that Larissa was feeling.

"Raleigh," she whispered, reaching out to him.

He hovered above, face hard, eyes narrowed.

"Please, Raleigh . . ."

You betrayed me, Larissa. The distance between them suddenly widened, and she struggled within the iron grip of something invisible that held her immobile.You don't deserve to live.

"I'm sorry, Leigh. I never meant to hurt you . . ."

Don't try to come up with any excuses, Larissa. Now you have to pay the consequences.

Raleigh turned without another word and vanished.

Larissa screamed one last time before this endless maw seemed to swallow her whole. Raleigh, no

And then came utter oblivion.

The steady, monotonous beep of electronics roused her from the nightmare world, and Larissa opened her eyes after what seemed like an eternity. Every limb felt leaden and disembodied, and it seemed like something or someone had shot a rather large hole straight through her heart. Why was it so hard to breathe?

The only parts of her body that she still had some control over were her fingers, which at the moment were tightly closed around a larger, warmer hand that certainly didn't belong to her. Slowly, painfully, she turned her head to see who sat next to her bed. Where am I, anyway?

Raleigh had tipped the chair back enough to rest his head against the wall. From his relaxed posture and semi-peaceful expression, Larissa could tell that he was fast asleep.

She stared at him for a long moment, the nightmare playing again through her head. Then she closed her eyes against the tears wanting to slip down her face, her fingers going limp in his grip. Her lips moved behind the breathing apparatus that covered her mouth and nose, but no words were heard.

I'm so sorry, Leigh.

Darkness took her once again.

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(c) S.M.N.